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Parliament House, Adelaide: transcript of doorstop interview: Admiral Barrie's statement in regard to 'kids overboard'; Governor-General; Ansett.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP -PARLIAMENT HOUSE, ADELAIDE, 27TH FEBRUARY 2002

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Admiral Barrie’s statement in regard to ‘Kids Overboard’; Governor-General; Ansett

CREAN: We now know that Defence advised the Government on October the tenth that the story was wrong and yet we’re expected to believe that this never got to the Head of Defence or to the Prime Minister. That beggars belief. But I welcome the inquiry that Admiral Barrie has announced. It has to be a transparent inquiry and it has to be a full inquiry. No more white lies. I believe that the Prime Minister and his Government knew the story was wrong and we’re going to get to the bottom of this and I think today has been an important development in helping get us there.

JOURNALIST: When you say get to the bottom of this do you think that an inquiry is going to tell us any more than we know (inaudible)?

CREAN: Well it already is telling us more than we knew. I mean last week the Prime Minister’s solid defence was Admiral Barrie. Admiral Barrie’s torpedo, which he said, had sunk the Exocet from Air Vice Marshall Houston. This torpedo of Admiral Barrie has now hit the Prime Minister. It’s missed every other target and come straight back to the Prime Minister. It’s a homing torpedo. It homes in on deceit.

JOURNALIST: What about Admiral Barrie’s position? Is that under threat?

CREAN: Well again I think that’s a judgment for him and I think it is also a judgment for the Prime Minister but the Prime Minister won’t act because he’s protecting himself.

JOURNALIST: Are you comfortable with the way Admiral Barrie’s handled this?

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CREAN: I think it’s very important that Admiral Barrie has come out and ‘fessed up that Defence knew and the fact that he’s called an inquiry to find out why he didn’t know is an important step in the equation. But this is the Government that deceived. Defence didn’t deceive. Defence gave advice to Government that the story was wrong. Government chose to ignore that advice and we’re expected to believe the advice never got to them. Well I don’t believe that and I think that Admiral Barrie’s admission today is terribly important in the scheme of things. Let’s see what his inquiry comes up with. But most importantly the Prime Minister now has to start answering the questions. We know that information came to the Government through a range of advisers, none of whom have been able to appear before Senate Estimates. They will be able to appear before the Senate inquiry and one would hope that the Admiral Barrie inquiry interviews these people. Interviews and finds out who in Defence passed on to who in the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister Reith’s Office. These are the questions that have to be answered and if it takes a number of inquiries to achieve it well we will wait.

JOURNALIST: Mr Crean just on the matter of the Royal visit today the Governor-General was on the tarmac. We’ve got two Premiers from South Australia who were there. Do you think that it’s been a bit of a storm in a teacup after all, the Queen arrived she looked quite happy to be here?

CREAN: I think Her Majesty is always happy to be here. I welcomed her back, I’ve met her on previous occasions and it always is a pleasure to see her. But I think that the Queen will have a very happy visit here.

JOURNALIST: Is the situation in South Australia politically embarrassing for the Queen?

CREAN: Well I just think that this is sour grapes on Rob Kerin’s part. I mean everyone knows he’s not the Premier except him because he wants to be there to receive the Queen. Well I think the Queen is an astute woman, she knows who the Premier really is and she met him next to me today.

JOURNALIST: Are you just being politically correct today? You’ve been scathing of the Governor-General now it doesn’t seem to be quite so serious?

CREAN: No I am still scathing of the circumstances surrounding the Governor-General and firmly believe that the Prime Minster should be asking Her Majesty for the termination of Dr Hollingworth’s appointment. But again the Prime Minister won’t do it because it’s his judgment that’s at stake. This is the Prime Minister’s appointment. His alone and he failed to follow up on due process. He’s failed in terms of proper judgment being exercised in the appointment of the number one citizen in our country and the Prime Minister wants to hide from it? Well we won’t let him hide from it.

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JOURNALIST: What should the Prime Minister say to the Queen today about the Governor-General position?

CREAN: Well you already know what my advice to the Prime Minister has been. It’s up to the Prime Minister of course whether he accepts that advice or not. But the Office is being damaged, everyone knows that. Revelations continue to come and no doubt more will come. The Prime Minister has invited further information to come directly to him. He can’t distance himself from any further allegations. In the past he’s been able to say it’s for the Governor-General to respond. Now that he’s invited people who are aggrieved to come directly to him he has to follow it up. It will be interesting to see how the Prime Minister responds in those circumstances but this is an error of judgment on the part of the Prime Minister. The Admiral Barrie exercise I think just highlights the extent of deceit to which this Government is prepared to go. Now when you’ve got a Prime Minister that deceives and lacks judgment I think it casts a big question on whether he still should be running this country.

JOURNALIST: In relation to Ansett and what’s happened there. What are your thoughts on that?

CREAN: Well I think it’s terribly tragic that the Ansett deal has fallen through. I think it’s absolutely vital that we get Ansett back in the skies. I’ve been urging that ever since the initial decision to ground Ansett. I call on the Government today to convene the round party meeting that I called for some months ago. I think it is incumbent on the Government to try and find a solution. Now one of the bids has fallen over today. The Government should be looking for the next best bid that can maximise the number of employees back in Ansett’s employ. It’s important for them. It’s important in terms of securing their entitlements but it’s also important for securing competition in the skies and particularly for regions. It’s in the nation’s interests. It’s in the nation’s interests that Ansett gets flying again and I would urge the Government to try and exercise and pursue all means possible to achieving that end.

JOURNALIST: What about the Corrigan bid though?

CREAN: Well I don’t know about the Corrigan bid. The Corrigan bid was one on previous occasions that was rejected by the Administrators but it’s incumbent on the Administrators now to look obviously at the Corrigan bid but it’s got to look at other bids.

JOURNALIST: Well they’ve the option to sell the airline down don’t they, to shut it down in effect. Obviously you’re calling on them not to do that?

CREAN: That’s an admission of defeat if that’s the way it goes. The obligation is to maximise the employment for as many Ansett staff as

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possible. To maximise competition in our skies and to maximise the opportunity in the regions because unless you’ve got an airline like Ansett with the feeder dimension to it it’s the regional airlines that are going to suffer as a consequence.

JOURNALIST: Every day it’s not put into liquidation though is, the airline’s losing money which means less entitlement for workers. At what point should the administrators cut their losses and just say that’s it?

CREAN: Well the Government has given, it was dragged kicking and screaming to this point, but it has given a commitment to guarantee employee entitlements so they should be underpinned. But I think that the Administrator has to look at all options possible and if I, what I am urging is for the Government to get involved. The Government to get involved and look at what the realistic options are for maximising the numbers of employees, the extent of competition and the regional dimension. That’s what the Government has to do and I urge them to do it.

JOURNALIST: That means months more of uncertainty though when workers don’t know …

CREAN: It doesn’t necessarily mean months more. There’s been huge effort put in to try and get Ansett back in the skies. Let’s draw on that effort. Let’s try and look at where the other players are but let’s get the Government involved. I mean the Government has just stood back from this. It wants to blame everyone else but it’s got an obligation to secure competition in the skies. They’ve turned a two-airline policy into a one-airline policy effectively. They’ve got an obligation to get competition back in the skies and maximise the opportunity for the Ansett employees.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Governor-General are you expecting anything to come out of today?

CREAN: Well you’ll have to ask the Governor-General and Her Majesty later today, or her Office, the Palace, but no I don’t know what’ll happen today.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you one more question about the Admiral Barrie situation? If the Admiral went to the Prime Minister with information (inaudible) with what he’s come up with today. Could the Prime Minister still claim to be in the clear regarding the information he had?

CREAN: Well look the Prime Minister will continue to claim he’s in the clear but the Prime Minster continues to narrow the very defence on which he argues he’s in the clear. He now expects us to believe that he was able to operate on a false statement because Admiral Barrie didn’t tell him it was wrong. Well sorry that doesn’t wash. If someone told him it was wrong then he’s perpetrated a massive deceit on the Australian public.

ENDS.